Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Dyeing Method

Since a number of readers have asked about dyeing, I thought I'd do a quick description of how I do it. I'm no expert by any means, but I thought I'd share my method, in case you're interested.

I buy all of my supplies from Dharma Trading Company. They have everything I need to dye. The only chemical I buy in addition to dyes is soda ash. This is what changes the Ph of the fabric so the dye can bond with the fibers of the fabric. I like the mottled look in fabric, I think it's very interesting, so I don't worry about water softener or urea to get a more even dye. I like to see some texture on the fabric I dye, so I don't use either of those chemicals to get a more even dye. I also don't use salt. I read this blog post from Dyeing 101 and she convinced me that for my purposes there was no need to use salt.

I also use the Lazy Dyer's method. I put about 1/3c of soda ash in a bunch of hot tap water (about 2-4 gallons). I stir until dissolved then add the items I mean to dye that day. I let it set till it's thoroughly wet, then pull it out and wring it before I dye it. I don't have a washing machine at home. We use well water and had problems with the red granite sediment in our washing water unintentionally dyeing our clothes, so until we have a better filtration system we go to the laundry mat. I wring the items till they are not dripping then set them aside. If I had a washing machine I would pour all of the washing soda fabric into the machine then spin with a bucket under the outlet. The soda ash water can be re-used as long as it is covered and doesn't evaporate and become too strong.

I mix the dye powder with water, first making a paste with just a bit of water to try to get all of the dye powder wet. Some powders are difficult to mix, and some much easier. I  use the proportions from The Lazy Dyer. This probably wastes some dye, but I'm not in business so weighing each amount just adds time and expense (you have to buy a gram scale) to the process. I have a number of books that give me recipes for colors. It isn't easy or intuitive for me to decide how much dye to use when I am mixing colors so I follow recipes. I bought some veterinary syringes (without the needles) that measure up to 36 ccs (a bit more than a tablespoon) to use when mixing colors. I don't buy pre-mixed colors, but prefer to use red, yellow and blue dye and mix orange, purple and green from the dye solutions. I will list the books I have that give recipes in the next post. The amount of dye solution needed for fabric is just enough to color all of the fabric. Especially because I like mottled fabric, I don't have the fabric swimming in the dye. I use a technique called low-water immersion. If you want to google that you will find lots of sites that give you tips on using this technique.

I live in the mountains of Colorado, and my house is usually (especially in the winter) not above 65 degrees. I use an ice-chest with an old heating pad in it to have a warm enough environment to have the fabric batch. From the Dyeing 101 blog I was convinced that 3 hours is enough time to batch, especially when I want to see what the items are going to look like, but it is not a problem to let the fabric batch much longer. I admit that most of the time I leave the fabric overnight and rinse and wash the next day. I rinse by hand (no washing machine) and learned from another blogger (can't remember where now) who has her water trucked in that a good way to get rid of excess dye is to pour off the dye, rinse some, then put the fabric in a container with lots of clear water and let it soak for an  hour or so. You can soak like colors together, but don't mix too much.  I guess this frees the excess dye molecules from the fabric and when you pour off that water you have much less rinsing to do. When washing many people say to use sythrapol to make sure you don't have the left over unbonded dye molecules bond to other fabric. I throw like colors together, along with a white rag to catch whatever dye is left. I find that if I rinse till there is very little color coming off of the fabric, it's ready to wash.

I never use fabric softener, but if you do it gives the dyed fabric a nice soft feel. When you've washed the fabric, dry it only to damp, that way you can finish it off with the iron and it will be smooth and wonderful to the touch.

I forgot to mention fabric. At the end of the dye session, I occasionally have some left-over dye. I admit that I have taken commercially dyed fabric that I don't love, thrown it in the soda ash solution, wrung it out and dyed it. The colors might not be as intense as other fabric that is prepared for dying (PFD) but it's a way to use the last bit of the dye. Some of those fabrics have come out looking wonderful.

I get the white fabric for dyeing from Dharma. I use the PFD and the mercerized has wonderful colors, but the feel is a bit rougher than the other fabrics I've bought. They have many different kinds. As long as it's cotton or rayon  you can use the method I've described. I've also bought many white t-shirts (Hanes beefy ts are my favorite) for my husband. Because I don't have a washer at home I just throw them into the soda ash solution, let the soak then dye them. They are brand new, but the last couple of times I've dyed I've also taken a couple of my plain colored t-shirts and thrown them in. They came out looking better than they looked going in, so I'm happy. As long as you don't mind variations in color this will work fine.

If you have any more questions about my methods, post a comment and I'll be happy to answer if I can.


paula, the quilter said...

Thank you.

Lindi said...

Thanks Mary. That's a great guide. :)

Brenda said...

Thanks for all of the great info. I can't wait to try it.

Ann at Prairie Primrose said...

Hi Mary, I'll have to come back and read more about your dyeing! Can you please send me an email through my profile? I'll need it if you win! Thanks, Ann


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